Red Stag Supperclub (Minneapolis, MN)
We first became aware of the oddly bright, oddly harsh light of light-emitting diodes (LED) in flashlights and those new Christmas lights. We couldn't imagine lighting a room with them. So of course we were curious when we heard that Kari and Kim Bartmann's new supper- club is entirely lit with LEDs.
Frankly, we expected ugly. But the room gets light through its many windows while there's daylight, and the LEDs themselves are filtered through colored glass that tempers their brightness. The lighting works: it's perfectly pleasant.
The Red Stag is a salute to an old and venerated American dining experience, but it's been given a 21st-century twist: it's Minnesota's first LEED-certified restaurant. LEED has nothing to do with food. "Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design" is a standard for green building design and operation: site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality. Those LEDs use a tiny fraction of the power of an incandescent bulb. In an industry with tiny profit margins, cost savings like these can make or break a place.
But really, we're there for the food. Fresh, local and in season: there's lots to like here.
Chef Billy Baskin has worked at some of the world's best restaurants, and that's informed his ideas and techniques. We loved the roasted bone marrow appetizer. Simple roasted beef bones, a spoon to scoop out the insides, and sides of grilled bread and roasted mushrooms: it's pure heaven. And the best new dish we've had in a long time is the smelt fries appetizer -- tiny filets fried in a thin cornmeal batter served with smoked-tomato ketchup made on-site. Don't miss the triple-cooked potato fries, crisp on the outside and creamy on the inside, served with parsley and garlic butter. Or the exceptional tempura broccoli.
Moving to the entrees, we loved the deer stroganoff. The egg noodles, the cream sauce, the mushrooms, the seasonings: we couldn't get enough of this dish.
The whole fried trout is beautifully prepared and cooked to perfection. The pork chop is delicious but unmemorable. The accompaniments to these, and indeed the whole menu, are subject to change as we move through the seasons.
Sunday is slow-cook day. The special when we were there was duck legs -- yes, two of them -- with a mild curry sauce, sticky rice and vegetables. Delicious.
The menu features six different side dishes, all big enough to share. Aside from the fries and the broccoli, we liked the Brussels sprouts, sautéed with bacon and toasted almonds. The squash was much too sweet and the grits were unremarkable. More truffle in the mac and cheese would have been welcome.
Desserts are also tasty -- here also we recommend sharing -- and the wine list features many excellent values. On the downside, service could be more expert. Our server would disappear for surprising lengths of time. We do commend the water service, though. Still or sparkling, it's offered free and refilled regularly.
The Red Stag does a fine job of being the greenest restaurant in town. We'd like every dish to be one we swoon over, but it's good enough to go back to.
Red Stag Supperclub
509 1st Ave. NE
Minneapolis, MN 55415
Cuisine Type: Modern American
Diet Choices: The kitchen can cater to all dietary requirements.